Caravanning seems to be increasing in popularity at the moment – and second-hand caravans can be bought relatively cheaply, meaning that a comfortable ‘home from home’ is within the reach of many people who already own a car – the other essential requirement for a caravan holiday!
However, not all cars are equal when it comes to towing caravans. Mismatched or overloaded car/caravan outfits are an all-too-common sight on the roads and this can be both dangerous and illegal.
With this in mind, I thought I would put together some information to help anyone trying to match a car to a caravan. However, there are two terms you need to understand before you start:
Kerb weight: This is the weight of a car with a driver in roadworthy condition (e.g. a full tank of fuel) but without passengers or luggage. You should be able to find this in your car’s handbook.
Towing Capacity (braked & unbraked): The maximum weight that can be towed by your car, according to the manufacturer’s specification. You should also be able to find this in your car’s handbook.
Most caravans are braked (have their own brakes), but some trailer tents and other very small camping trailers may be unbraked. Make sure you select the correct towing capacity for your caravan or trailer tent.
Matching a Car & Caravan
The most reliable authority on safe caravan towing in the UK is probably the Caravan Club. Its website has a wealth of useful information for caravanners, including the following two links, which explain everything you need to know about ‘outfit matching’ (caravanners like to refer to the combination of car and caravan as an ‘outfit’).
- Caravan Club guide to outfit matching
- Caravan Club Top 20 Caravan questions – read questions 2 and 3 carefully
If you read and understand these two links, I would suggest you have all the information necessary to safely match a towcar and caravan. Some of it is a bit technical, however, so if you find it unclear I would strongly suggest you use the Caravan Club’s matching service or take expert advice from a caravan dealer or from the manufacturer of your car.
The consequences of using an unsuitable towcar can be frustrating at best and very dangerous at worst.
Note: For more information on driving licence requirements for towing, see our Towing a Trailer page.